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Rental Car Accident Liability: Who’s Responsible?

Rental Car Accident Liability: Who’s Responsible?

On behalf of | November 29, 2023. | Auto Accidents

Virginia Beach attracts millions of tourists yearly, and many utilize rental cars while enjoying the beaches, culinary scene, and tourist attractions. Rental cars provide freedom of mobility to many tourists while they travel, as well as residents whose car may be undergoing repair or is otherwise unavailable for some time. So what happens if you are injured in an accident while driving a rental car? Or who is responsible if you are hit by someone driving a retinal car? These are valid questions. The party ultimately accountable for reimbursing damages and injuries will depend on who is at fault for the accident. Every crash is unique, and the best way to determine who might be at fault is to speak with an experienced Virginia rental car accident lawyer.

rental car accident liability

Virginia Rental Car Accident Liability Basics

Most importantly, the liability rules for vehicle accidents are the same as those involving non-rental cars. Like any car wreck, the negligent or at-fault party is likely financially liable for any damages and injuries sustained in the crash. 

Insurance Doesn’t Change an At-Fault Party’s Liability for a Rental Car Accident

It is important to remember that insurance doesn’t change a party’s liability; instead, it allocates the financial risk and responsibility of the drivers. In other words, whether a driver has insurance will not change their liability for the accident. Instead, it means they have protection from being personally and financially responsible for damages and injuries. 

Who Is Responsible for Damages to a Rental Car in the Event of an Accident?

The rental car agreement will include language regarding renters’ responsibility in the event of an accident. Some personal car insurance policies cover damage to rental cars, and others do not. In an accident with a rental vehicle, it is helpful to look at your policy because it will often pay out first, up to your policy limits, for damages once you pay your deductible. 

If you purchased supplemental car insurance through the rental company, that may overlap or provide secondary coverage. Understanding and navigating who pays is complex, and speaking with an attorney for rental car accidents will be helpful.

Types of Insurance Coverage for Rental Cars

In addition to your personal insurance coverage, rental car companies offer different types of insurance for renters. Supplemental coverage options may include the following:

  • Liability coverage—protects the driver if, while driving, an event occurs that injures another person.
  • Collision coverage—assists with expenses relating to car repairs or replacement costs of the rental vehicle.
  • Personal accident coverage—covers costs associated with medical treatment.
  • Credit card coverage for rental carsmany credit card companies provide auto rental insurance automatically whenever you use their card to rent a vehicle. This coverage often only applies to the vehicle damages and not liability.

Can I Sue the Other Driver for Damages to the Rental Car in Virginia?

We know that Virginia follows the at-fault system regarding car accidents. As such, drivers involved in a crash can sue the other driver for compensation if that driver is at fault. 

Is the Rental Car Company Liable for Renter’s Conduct?

Generally, the rental car company itself is not liable for the negligent actions of the renter. 

In some states, the owner of a car is said to be automatically liable for the damages involving the vehicle, regardless of who is driving. However, even in those states of automatic owner liability, rental car agencies are generally excluded. Specifically, the Graves Amendment states that rental car companies cannot be held automatically liable for their renters’ damages, regardless of what state law says.

However, the company may be liable if it engaged in negligence or wrongdoing that contributed to the accident. For instance, if the rental company knew the car had a mechanical issue that made it unsafe, they may be liable for damages due to a crash.

4 Tips for After a Rental Car Accident

Suppose you get hurt in a crash involving a rental car, whether as a rental car driver, passenger, occupant of another vehicle struck by a rental car, pedestrian, or cyclist. What steps should you take to ensure your safety and protect your rights? Here are four essential tips you can follow after the collision.

Move to Safety

If you are able, move the car with its passengers to safety. This may be as simple as pulling off onto the shoulder and out of traffic. Do your best to get away from traffic or other potential sources of danger.

Collect Information & Evidence

Gather the other driver’s contact and insurance information and speak to any eyewitnesses who might have witnessed the crash. Snapping photos of the cars, accident scenes, injuries, and conditions with your phone is also a good idea. 

Request First Responders

If you or anyone else is seriously injured, call 911 immediately. However, if there are no life-threatening injuries, you should still contact first responders, including the police and EMS. The police will conduct an investigation and write an accident report.

Contact The Rental Car Company

If you are driving a rental car and in an accident, you must notify them about the accident. Check the rental agreement or inside the vehicle for a designated phone number to call in case of a crash. Depending on the severity of the impact, if the car is driveable, they may instruct you to take the vehicle to a particular location or provide you with a specific tow truck company to call. 

In addition to these tips, you must seek follow-up medical attention and treatment as necessary. Frequently, injuries can be masked by the initial shock and adrenaline after a car crash, or they can develop slowly. It is imperative to be thoroughly checked out by a doctor. 

Rental Car Accident Liability Attorneys

The Law Firm of Carlton F. Bennett specializes in helping those injured in serious car crashes. With over four decades of experience and many awards and accolades, we have the knowledge, resources, and expertise to succeed your claim. Contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.

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